Leading up to our recent Euro-dining-trip, Rocky and I were on the lookout for ideas to fill in the gaps between our major dining destinations. Concerning Copenhagen, we already had a decent amount of our short stay booked up, so we gathered a few suggestions that sounded good to throw in our back pockets and play by ear in our free time.
Fast-forward a little. During half-time of our two-a-day at Noma, while chatting with Chef Rene Redzepi, he found out we had no definite dinner plans for the following night. Rene first recommended we have dinner at Relæ, then he insisted on it, then he went so far as to have his buddy Ali make a reservation for us(which was great, since we likely wouldn’t have scored a spot ourselves because of the late planning). Chef exclaimed: ‘You guys have to go there. Not just because those guys are friends of mine, but because it’s fucking amazing. Nobody else is doing what they’re doing.’ Since I had received a similar endorsement from Matthew Lightner at Atera a few weeks before, I was excited to see what Chef Christian Puglisi was cooking.
Moving forward a day, Rocky and I were feeling good from a great lunch at Geranium, and were out touring Copenhagen with our new friend Jonas The Dane, when I got the text from Ali. We were all set for dinner at Relæ. With dinner plans locked down, we went to see what there was to see in Christiania, had a couple beers just off Pusher Street, then made our way across town and up to Jægersborggade.
Rocky and I showed up, dried off a few moments(it had started pouring rain as we left Christiania), then were seated at a small chef’s counter overlooking part of the kitchen. Soon after, Jonas The Dane arrived, somehow much drier than us(which is worth mentioning since we hired a cab and he rode his bicycle), and we ordered some aperitifs.
In front of each of us was a drawer containing a menu, napkin, and enough silverware to make it through the meal. The menu presented two options for dinner. Jonas The Dane and I ordered the chef menu and Rocky opted for the vegetable menu(which differed only in two of the four courses). Supplements were offered in three places, so of course, we added all three: a small starter, a cheese course, and a post dessert.
My overall booze consumption for the day was pretty decent, so I’ll try to piece together what I can remember:
Celeriac taco. Tasty little tacos with good root vegetable crunch, peppery greens-watercress and nasturtium, and hints of richness from cured egg yolks.
Bread service. Thick-crusted sourdough accompanied by cold-pressed Sicilian olive oil.
Lamb from havervadgård, shrimps and dill. The shrimp, dried and powdered, provided a little ocean salinity to the slices of lamb. The onions lent an outstanding allium flavor to the plate.
Eggplant, seawater and elderflower. First course from the vegetable menu. I had been on a stretch of having terrible eggplant dishes at great restaurants the previous couple months. When I saw Rocky’s dish show up, I thought the streak would continue. This however was fantastic. Nicely salted, good acid, and honest eggplant flavor.
Turnip, chervil and hourseradish. Dehydrated and rehydrated turnips had a fun texture, which was enlivened even more by the occasional pop of a mustard seed. The more I chewed the turnips, the more layers of flavor they revealed.
Dried courgettes and bitter leaves. Third course of the vegetable menu. I could be way off here, but I think they may have said that this zucchini was also dehydrated and rehydrated, then dusted with seaweed and salt. Rocky told me this was the only time she enjoyed eating zucchini that wasn’t baked into a cake.
Veal sweetbread, cauliflower and basil. I love cauliflower. I love basil. Sometimes I like sweetbreads. Every now and then I love sweetbreads. I was astounded by how good this plate was. The glands were cooked perfectly. The chopped cauliflower was seasoned superbly. Taking the time to thoroughly chew these bites was a wonderfully rewarding experience.
Fresh goat cheese and parsley. A composed course of light, subtly tangy Swedish goat cheese and parsley puree presented in a Jackson Pollack fashion and served with more house sourdough in lieu of additional silverware.
Corn, breadcrumbs and marjoram. Another winner. The creaminess of sweet corn ice cream over an Italian meringue. The herbal tang of the marjoram was a fresh counterbalance. Breadcrumbs and whole corn kernels changed up the texture.
Söl toffee. Seaweed accented toffee on small pastry tarts. Small, rich bites to finish the meal.
Chef Christian Puglisi’s food is bad-ass. Inventive, sometimes daring combinations, but still clean and fresh. Our meal was full of bold flavors, but didn’t hit us too hard, and left us feeling great. Thanks to Redzepi for the recommendation and Ali for the reservation.
Some wines we were served:
Date of visit: September 14th, 2012
Relæ. Jægersborggade 41.Copenhagen, Denmark. +45 3696 6609 http://restaurant-relae.dk/